With the release of the Globe and Mail’s Canadian University Report, editor Simon Beck says the survey can be a useful tool for students to gain insight on both the quality of life on Canadian campuses as well as which universities are improving student services.
At the same time, some student union leaders have said the results may not accurately reflect the services each university has to offer.
With 38,000 students at 53 universities across Canada having participated in the Globe’s survey, Beck says the survey is particularly valuable because it is based on student opinion rather than third party statistics.
“We always felt the value of our [survey] came from actually asking the students themselves what they think,” says Beck.
Beck says the report looks to air criticisms about going to university and obtaining a degree.
“There’s criticism of universities because they get more and more expensive and some say that the standards go down and so is getting a degree worth it? My answer to that would be yes. It’s still worth it,” says Beck.
“You’ve got a much better chance of getting a good job and becoming a better-rounded individual if you’ve got a university degree under your belt. So to my mind it’s still vitally important.”
According to Beck, the report serves as a useful tool for high school seniors and their parents when trying to choose a post-secondary institution.
“You’ve got to pick your university wisely, so [ . . . ] what we’re trying to do is give students as much information as they can get before they make a choice.”
As for the results of the survey and how universities ranked, Beck says that for the most part it was what was expected.
“The universities that are still at the top are largely expected because they seem to do an incredibly good job of satisfying their students in most areas. Western Ontario is one, Queen’s is another, Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier and a lot of smaller ones like Mount Allison,” said Beck.
He says large commuter universities have a hard time ranking well in student satisfaction.
“By and large I think that the main thing is that the big urban universities obviously have a good reputation and provide a good education but because they’re bigger and there are a lot of commuters at them.
They never fare quite as well in student satisfaction because they have bigger classes and students don’t think they have enough interactions with their professors, whereas the medium and smaller universities tend to do better,” says Beck.
Student union presidents varied on their opinions of the survey results.
Warren Kirkland, University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union president, says he thinks the U of S performed fairly well in the survey.
“I think the U of S stacked up fairly well overall in each of the categories. We weren’t topping the charts on any one in specific but always ranking considerably well considering our standings.”
University of Manitoba Students’ Union president Sid Rashid says that certain categories pinpoint where government funding is lacking.
“Buildings and facilities [ . . . ] — the ranking in that is a clear indication that our provincial government needs to really look seriously at the funding levels that they are providing the University of Manitoba and post-secondary education in the province as a whole,” says Rashid. “It’s not a secret that the University of Manitoba does have some aging infrastructure that needs to be addressed.”
Jason Syvixay, University of Winnipeg Students’ Association president, said that he expects results for the U of W to improve next year when students can take into consideration improvements that were made after the survey was completed.
“I think the results reflect a lot of last year. Obviously with the University of Winnipeg, a lot of our capital constructions have fast forwarded throughout the summer,” he says.
The survey outcomes for the University of Regina did not accurately reflect the quality of programs the university has to offer according to Kyle Addison, U of R Students’ Union president.
“The results we have are pretty much average right across the board, but there are definitely some that I didn’t think were really fair to the programs we offer,” says Addison.
U of R has a very large co-op program, giving students high opportunities for job placement in their desired fields — but, says Addison, such highlights were missed by the average-score rankings.
He says that the results are unfortunate considering they are based on student opinion.
“We may have to do some internal promoting. [ . . . ] It’s just kind of interesting to see how students rate their school. It doesn’t seem like everybody took into consideration the value that this school has to offer them,” says Addison.
According to Beck, Canadian universities on the whole rank fairly well with some consistently ranking the best.
“If you look at the results of any given university, a lot of them are good at a lot of things and bad at others,” says Beck.
“There are some universities that seem to be good at everything across the board such as Western Ontario, which is remarkable given that is a large university. There are others that are up there that are pretty good.”
Beck says that on the whole, students are fairly satisfied with their post-secondary investments, but are becoming more and more demanding customers.
“And that’s good,” he says.